Financial Editing: The Words you Choose - ACES 2012 | New Orleans

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Financial Editing: The Words you Choose - ACES 2012 | New Orleans

Financial Copy Editing: The Words You Choose

ACES New Orleans

April 12–14, 2012

Christine Steele, The Capital Group Cos.

1. Careless language has an impact and can ultimately be detrimental to a business,

especially in finance or investment where someone else is managing your money.

2. Vocabulary can describe an approach; it is not a style.

3. Financial portfolios are responsibilities: moral, legal or mental accountability;

reliability, trustworthiness.

4. Whether in the midst of a corporate scandal or a bad quarterly financial report, a

company’s communication with the public must be proactive, consistent and

ongoing. If the words are right, there is no such thing as overkill. (from resource

listed on page 3, page 129)

5. How you speak determines how you are perceived and received. But creditability

and authenticity don’t just happen. They are earned.

Watch your thoughts: They become your words.

Watch your words: They become your actions.

Watch your actions: They become your habits.

Watch your habits: They become your character.

Watch your character: It becomes your destiny.

Untitled poem from an anonymous Buddhist monk

bet(s)/betting

Associated with gambling. Avoid use as in these examples. Use other word choices

noted in parentheses or similar.

o The best bets are those companies that have strong earnings. (opportunities,

prospects)

o The market’s negative tone did not have options traders pressing their bets

to the downside. (investments, interests)

o Thursday’s economic reports, on net, were disappointing to those betting the

dollar could continue to stabilize. (speculating)

book of business

The phrase dehumanizes the adviser-client relationship and “book” is somewhat

impersonal. If it’s appropriate, use “build your business.”

credit union vs. bank — Credit union creates the perception of being small,

intimate, kind and caring with friendly people inside. A bank conjures up visions of

concrete buildings and unattainable wealth. Also being a “member” of a credit union

instead of a bank “customer” sounds more participatory and friendly.

crisis — Instead of playing into the hysteria that others seem to promote, substitute

words like “turmoil,” “turbulence” or “dislocation,” as appropriate. The idea is to

acknowledge economic and market realities without playing into that hysteria.


Financial Copy Editing: The Words You Choose

ACES New Orleans

April 12–14, 2012

Christine Steele, The Capital Group Cos.

expert/expertise

It could have a legal connotation. The word(s) suggest that one will be held to a

higher standard if the claim is made. Instead use: “experience” or “knowledge.”

foreign — Use more appropriate words. Instead say “outside of the U.S.,”

but not always; it doesn’t mean “not in the United States.”

o

o

o

“Outside of the U.S.” refers to companies based outside of the U.S. but that

are active in the U.S. and employ a number of Americans.

“Global” and “international” are also other word choices. “Global” means

encompassing the U.S. plus outside of the U.S. “International” means outside

of the U.S.

Instead of “foreign trade” say “international trade.”

Exception: The IRS has a foreign tax credit for individuals so OK to use “foreign” in

this context.

gaming vs. gambling — “Gaming” is more friendly in the industry and is what

families do together (at a family-friendly resort). “Gambling” suggests a bad habit

and engages risky behavior.

portfolio counselor vs. portfolio manager — One of the definitions of “counsel”

in the dictionary is “advice or guidance, esp. as solicited from a knowledgeable

person.” In relation to “counselor,” using this term in the industry over “manager”

can demonstrate that a company is operating on the shareholder’s behalf and it

reinforces the idea of a professional relationship/ partnership between the counselor

and the shareholder. Managers, by definition, tend to dictate and/or exert control —

sometimes to the benefit of only themselves.

nobody knows/no one knows — Banish any and all phrases such as this, e.g.,

“No one knows where equity markets are headed.” “Nobody knows why the market

fell.” While no one may know the specifics, our investors have entrusted us with their

hard-earned assets and look to us to create positive long-term investment results for

them. We need to tell our readers something that we do believe in. These phrases

make it seem like we are at the mercy of the market.

performance — Use “investment results” rather than “performance” — a term

widely used in the investment industry. You could say that when “performance” is

applied to the investment process, it indicated a public presentation or exhibition and

focuses attention on the investment manager rather than the shareholder. Investors

entrust firms with their hard-earned assets and look to these firms to create positive

long-term investment results for them, not just a great performance here or there.

Focus instead on the client by using “investment results,” “results” or “returns.”

customers vs. clients —Focus on “clients” not “customers.” A company would want

to strive to fulfill client needs versus wants.


sales/sell/marketing, and related language —

Financial Copy Editing: The Words You Choose

ACES New Orleans

April 12–14, 2012

Christine Steele, The Capital Group Cos.




Sales/selling may imply that a company is offering something that one

doesn’t need or want and that the central purchase is the most important (or

only) part of a broker-shareholder relationship. Brokers don’t just “sell” funds,

they advise their clients about investing in them, owning them and ultimately

redeeming them in retirement. Could substitute with “advise” or “educate”

where applicable.

Sometimes language tied to sales or an income can suggest competition or

related concepts to improving productivity. Instead of “improve productivity,”

replace with “strengthen your business practices.”

Avoid talking about taking a business to the next level. It suggests above and

beyond, which can’t always be promised. Saying that an adviser can become

a top seller is also avoided because it suggests competition and comparing.

Old words new meanings

Challenge/problem/issue

1. Issue – euphemism for problem, too harsh and stark for our times.

Companies face issues and challenges, never problems.

2. Challenge implies competition.

3. Problem is threatening and negative and suggests failure.

Resource: Words that Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear, by Dr. Frank Luntz


What’s wrong with these sentences?

Financial Copy Editing: The Words You Choose

ACES New Orleans

April 12–14, 2012

Christine Steele, The Capital Group Cos.

1. Although no one can predict exactly the course and conditions of the financial

markets, we’ll offer you help to put your investments in a better position to

participate in an eventual recovery.

2. Extreme market conditions often lead investors to take extreme actions, such as

cashing out of their investments and waiting for a better time to invest.

3. Same theme:

Making regular investments can help take the guesswork out of when to invest.

Another option is to stay the course.

The downside of getting out is investors can end up with significantly less than

their original investments.

Fixed income is currently used to provide a base level of coupon in an

investment-grade portfolio.

4. We truly appreciate the willingness of our shareholders to stick with us during an

extremely challenging period, and we recognize that this was not an easy

decision. Thank you for your confidence in us.

5. Today we will be discussing the fixed income funds, and digging down to give

some characteristics and analysis of the specific American Funds bond funds.


Financial Copy Editing: The Words You Choose

ACES New Orleans

April 12–14, 2012

Christine Steele, The Capital Group Cos.

ANSWERS

1. Although no one can predict exactly the course and conditions of the financial

markets, we’ll offer you help to put your investments in a better position to

participate in an eventual recovery.

Banish phrases like “no one can predict” and “no one knows.” While no one may

know the specifics, investors have entrusted money management firms with their

hard-earned assets and look to them for creating positive long-term investment

results for them. Phrases like “nobody knows,” “no one knows,” and “no one can

predict” make it seem like a company is at the mercy of the market.

2. Extreme market conditions often lead investors to take extreme actions, such as

cashing out of their investments and waiting for a better time to invest.

You just scared the reader by saying that investors are taking extreme actions and

cashing out all their money. They might think they should do the same.

Revision: Recently, some investors may have cashed out of their investments due

to fear and may now be waiting for a better time to invest.

3. Be precise. Explain better to help the reader.

Original: Making regular investments can help take the guesswork out of when to

invest.

Explain what the guesswork is.

Revision: Investors who stick to a program of regular investing can fare even

better than those who held their investment for an entire period. (Sentence

accompanies a hypothetical investment in a chart.) By making regular investments,

these investors were able to buy more shares when prices were lower, allowing them

to take advantage of the fund’s long-term growth.

Original: Another option is to stay the course.

Explain how to stay the course.

Revision: Investors who held their investment for the entire 10-year period were

able to weather a decline because they were still invested as the fund’s results

improved.

Original: The downside of getting out is investors can end up with significantly less

than their original investments.

What is meant by “getting out”?

Revision: The downside of selling is that investors may end up with significantly less

than their original investments.

Original: Fixed income is currently used to provide a base level of coupon in an

investment-grade portfolio.

What does “base level of coupon” mean?

Revision: TBD. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t know, the reader may

not know either. In fact, the writer didn’t know when asked and was to get back to

me after the conference.


Financial Copy Editing: The Words You Choose

ACES New Orleans

April 12–14, 2012

Christine Steele, The Capital Group Cos.

ANSWERS (continued)

4. We truly appreciate the willingness of our shareholders to stick with us during an

extremely challenging period, and we recognize that this was not an easy

decision. Thank you for your confidence in us.

What is meant by "challenging period"? Without the broader context, it sounds like

the company is struggling and they are just happy and grateful the shareholder

“stuck with us” in the midst of struggles. Maybe the broader context discusses the

challenging and volatile market environment, but the paragraph could imply and

emphasize that the company is challenged.

It might also be presumptuous to state that “it wasn't an easy decision.” In reality,

we don’t know. The company could have shareholders with a genuinely long-term

perspective who have tremendous confidence in the company and weren’t wracked

with doubt about “sticking with us.”

5. Today we will be discussing the fixed income funds, and digging down to give

some characteristics and analysis of the specific American Funds bond funds.

Revision: Today we will be discussing the fixed-income funds and providing some

characteristics and analysis of our specific American Funds bond funds.

“Digging down” isn’t polished or mature for a corporation, and it isn’t clear. What is

the intended message? Voice expresses a company’s basic personality, for example,

it could be practical, authoritative, trendy, etc. A company with a consistent voice

can communicate in different tones, depending on the topic at hand, but this one

isn’t appropriate for an adviser or shareholder audience.

Also, don’t forget the hyphen between “fixed income” when it modifies a noun. And

before “specific,” “the” was changed to “our.”